Thomas Fire Burn
Project info

The Thomas Fire of 2017 is the largest fire in modern California history, an extreme example of a powerfully destructive and creative cycle endemic to the region. The burn came within a quarter mile of my home, and as the smoke cleared, I was struck by how it had abstracted the landscape, leaving white shadows of ash where trees had been and turning a once-colorful forest black, rendered completely bare of undergrowth. Only the strongest features remained.

These images were created with an 8x10” wooden view camera and enlarged to allow the viewer access to an incredibly detailed account of the destruction wrought by the fire. I collected ashes and sulfur-laden water from hot springs at the origin point, Thomas Aquinas College. It is almost as if these chemical catalysts carry a memory of the fire, acting on the print to produce ghostly effects such as swirling apocalyptic skies and suggestions of the trees that once stood. Applied to the developed prints, the ash and sulfur attack the silver, transforming the monochrome image into fiery color, with licks of red, orange, green, and brown. The result is not only a documentation of destruction, but also a vision of the beauty rendered by it.